President pushed to sideline
By Thunderword Staff
Highline Student Government President Vanessa Primer was effectively removed from office on April 30.
The decision was in collaboration with Human Resources and Center for Leadership and Service faculty. However, Director of Leadership and Service Iesha Valencia was not able to share why.
Primer is no longer able to do her job responsibilities, including: speak at commencement, facilitate executive meetings, and have a vote in the student council.
However, she continues to hold the title of president.
Students have taken to their own theories as to why Primer has been removed, though.
Speaker of the CaucusAstrid Duenas worked closely with Primer the last year as a fellow Student Government member.
After notice of a car accident, Primer did not show up to work for several weeks, Duenas said.
"I felt lost, to be honest. I didn't know what was going on," Duenas said. "She did send an email, but saying that she was not going to be at the day's meeting. There was nothing about the rest of the weeks."
After suffering a foot injury during the accident, Primer said the original email she sent was sufficient.
"I sent the email to Iesha and Chloe Zabrek, she is the head of S&A Committee," Primer said. "I also sent a picture of my foot in a boot from the hospital."
At this point, Duenas said Primer's lack of steady communication resulted in her being removed from other events in Student Government.
"I sent her an email telling her we couldn't bring her to Voice Academy, since she hadn't been showing up or responding to emails about the event," Duenas said.
Duenas said Primer had a history of being late and absent from meetings prior to her accident, but Primer argued that those allegations weren't just.
"They scheduled me during classes. I thought the thing with CLS is that we're number three," Primer said. "I thought that the priority was health and school before anything else."
As for the more recent absences proceeding the accident, Primer said it wasn't her choice. In the email sent by Valencia, Primer said she was informed not to attend work.
"What she said in the letter was that 'I was not allowed to represent the ASHC in any capacity until further notice','' Primer said. "So, it was very, very clear to me that I can't use my email, I can't return voicemail calls, I can't go to an executive meeting, I can't go to student council meetings."
Primer said the next few weeks were stressful.
"I am afraid to do anything because I don't want to violate what she's telling me," Primer said. "If I go to a meeting, I know I will be fired. So, I stay away."
After several weeks of this, Primer was effectively released from her duties as president.
"The next thing I know, she fires me for not going to the meetings she told me I couldn't go to," Primer said. "How could I have done anything at this point?"
Valencia said firing Primer from presidency was due to work performance issues, and the decision was made based on campus policy.
Valencia also denies telling Primer not to show up to meetings. She added that Primer had missed meetings due to having doctor's appointments, but that Primer was unable to provide a doctor's note, so it was unexcused.
Proceeding this, Student Government decided to have a vote to determine the presidential title that Primer still had. However, the vote was rejected by the Associated Students of Highline College committee to remove Primer's title as president.
Highline student Caryn Truitt was present at the council meeting with the vote and had her own thoughts on Primer and CLS.
"From what I have seen, which has only been email correspondence, is that Vanessa was set up to fail," Truitt said. "Meetings were scheduled during her class times, then she was written up for being late."
"This is an educational facility; school should always be a first priority over anything else," Truitt said. "Vanessa would push issues, such as the National Anthem at graduation, that the CLS wanted to go a different way. But Vanessa would fight for the students vote."
Primer also stated that there were political disagreements and that she felt that she was treated differently than her co-workers.
Valencia said that wasn't the case.
"We never discussed politics," Valencia said, "aside from how students are marginalized."
The particular issue, claimed Primer, was how the National Anthem was changed during last year's commencement ceremony.
Valencia said that the Associated Students of Highline College had revisited last year's Student Government discussion about why or why not to include the National Anthem.
"It was not my decision, but it was voted finally last year to include it but only as an instrumental version," Valencia said. "It was ultimately decided by the Interim College President Jeff Wagnitz and his team."
The decision was based on lyrics from the third verse in the anthem being inherently racist and oppressive.
Valencia also said that Primer expressed her personal opinion on the National Anthem issue publically at a commencement committee meeting comprised of staff and faculty. This was a strike against her professionalism, as she is expected to represent the student body and not inject her opinions.
Primer was also fired from her position at Center for Leadership and Services prior to the vote from office for reasons currently unavailable to the public.
Valencia stated that it was a personnel issue and that she can't reveal details due to confidentiality and standard procedure.
Staff Reporters Byron Patten and Peter Brooks contributed to this story.